Teachers Sensitised on LGBTI Issues in the Classroom

In 2012 Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter and Co-Principal Investigators, Drs. Thabo Msibi and Finn Reygan at the University of KwaZulu-Natal initiated a study to sensitise teachers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) identities in the curriculum.  The project culminated in 2014 with a hands-on, easy-to-use curriculum resource that was launched today (30 May, 2014).  This initiative was supported by a grant from the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to South Africa and endeavours to be a positive step in ensuring that schools are safe and affirming spaces for all learners, regardless of sexuality. 

 The study included 800 teachers in KwaZulu-Natal who were trained on how to develop competencies in teaching about sexual and gender diversity. It also upskilled participants on how to best challenge homophobia and transphobia in the classroom. While the South African Constitution was the first in Africa to explicitly recognise the rights of gay and lesbian individuals, the study found that many school learners who self-identify as LGBTI or are assumed to be LGBTI, continue to be denied rights through forms of homophobia and hate speech, exclusion, marginalisation and violence. These negative experiences occur despite the protections offered by both the Constitution and the South African Schools Act, both of which are clear in addressing all forms of discrimination in the promotion of a democratic, equal and fair South Africa.

 “While schools are often seen as sites of support, care and assistance, and teachers and school principals are seen as making a difference in young people’s lives, the reality is quite different when it comes to the lives of LGBTI young people and adults, who continue to experience discrimination and violence,” explained Professor Potgieter.

 The study, saw religious groups, non-governmental organisations and teacher organisations discuss the challenges that many in the LGBTI community face today. With the successful conclusion of this study and training, a curriculum resource pack on LGBTI issues will be available for teacher- educators. 

“We have recommended that the training module be provided not just to Life Orientation (LO) trainer teachers but to trainee teachers across all subject areas. Sexual and gender diversity must be included in the National Schools Safety Framework.

“Academic staff in Schools of Education should be adequately trained in advance on the issues contained in the training module so that they are sensitised and conscientised around these issues and therefore prepared to fully engage in an affirming manner with the training content,” concludes Professor Potgieter.

The recommendations will be sent to the Departments of Basic and Higher Education for consideration.

 U.S. Consul General Taylor Ruggles represented the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to South Africa at the launch event and he said, “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participated in the first ever United Nation’s LGBT Ministerial Event in September 2013 where he reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to promoting and protecting the human rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Secretary Kerry said and I quote, “As Secretary, I join with my colleagues at our embassies, consulates and USAID missions around the world in saying no matter where you are and no matter who you love, we stand with you.”

 U.S. Government Fact Sheet: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Human Rights Issues



 Caption to photo by Sipho Ngwenya 

 Left to right

Dr Finn Reygan, Project co-principal investigator, Taylor Ruggles, US Consul General , Prof Cheryl Potgieter, DVC and Head of the College of Humanities and Project Principal Investigator and Dr Thabo Msibi, Project co-principal investigator at the project report breakfast on LGBTI issues in the curriculum in Durban.